Gluten-, Dairy- and Sugar-Free Banana, Apricot & Almond Muffins

banana apricot and almond muffins recipe healthy breakfast or snack in assocation with tesco gluten free dairy free sugar free

Week five of 2015’s Great Bloggers Bake-Off (although only the second for me), and the lovely people at Tesco Real Food got in touch to ask if I’d bake something for free-from week if they provided the ingredients. How could I refuse! Being diagnosed with a gluten intolerance last Christmas, you’ll have noticed a steady increase in gluten-free recipes this year, and I was so pleased to see GBBO recognising that there are people out there who need to use different methods an ingredients in their baking.

This bake started out as a gluten-free snack one evening after work. Only later did I realise it’s also dairy-free and (added) sugar-free as well – ticking off all off the weeks challenges in one batch of tasty muffins!

These muffins actually border on healthy due to the high fruit and nut content, and are perfect for an on-the-go breakfast, or to curb those mid-morning munchies.

All my ingredients came from Tesco – and although they don’t make their own gluten free flour, they do stock Doves Farm which is my personal favourite, it’s a great base for so many recipes.

basket of shopping sponsored by tesco real food for muffins recipe free frim

The great thing about this recipe is that it’s so versatile – you can add or omit most things as long as you keep the basics at the same quantities – bananas, eggs, oil, milk/water and dry ingredients (flour/oats/ground almonds & bicarb). They’d very easily work as nut-free (replace the ground almonds with more gf flour and omit the ones on top); you can omit the dried mixed fruits if you’re not a fan; or add some chocolate chips for a sweeter treat!

Ingredients
2 medium ripe bananas
100g dried apricots, chopped into small pieces
15g crystallised ginger, finely chopped
50g dried mixed fruit
50g gluten free flour
50g gluten free oats
50g ground almonds
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 medium eggs
75ml almond milk or similar (normal milk or even water is fine)
50ml oil – I use extra virgin olive oil
50g flakes almonds

Glaze (optional) – 25g apricot jam

Method
– In a large bowl, mix together the apricots, ginger, mixed fruit, flour, oats, almonds and bicarbonate of soda. Mix well so that all the little pieces of fruit/ginger are coated in flour, this will stop them sinking during making
– In a separate bowl, mash the bananas and beat together with the milk, oil, and eggs
– Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and mix until all combined
– Grease a 12-hole muffin tin. I use cake release spray – you can also get this in Tesco – but oil would work too. Use a pastry brush to make sure the sides, corners and bottom are well greased, as it’s quite a sticky mixture.
– Divide the mixture between the 12 holes and sprinkle the flaked almonds over the top
– Bake at 180 °C for 12-15 minutes, until the tops are springy to the touch and the muffins are slightly golden at the edges

free from muffin mix oats flour almonds dried fruit

gluten-free dairy-free and sugar-free banana almond and apricot muffins topped with flaked almonds recipe ready to make

freshly baked banana flaked almond apricot muffins gluten free dairy free recipe

The apricot jam glaze is entirely optional (and slightly anti the sugar-free part of the challenge), but does add a lovely finish to the tops of the muffins. Tesco do stock a reduced-sugar jam for the particularly health conscious!

reduced sugar apricot jam from tesco for healthier low sugar cakes recipe

– As soon as the muffins are removed from the oven, leave them in the tin and prick the tops all over with the very tip of a sharp knife. You want about 15-20 tiny holes per muffin
– Heat the apricot jam in the microwave or a saucepan with 25ml of water, until you have a smooth liquid (this should only take a minute or two). Drizzle the glaze over the top of each muffin a little at a time, until it’s all used up
– Leave the muffins to cool completely in the tin. Once cool, they should come out easily (if you greased the tin well enough!), if not, run a sharp knife around the edges, turn the tray upside down, and gently tap the bottom

apricot jam glaze reduced sugar topping dairy and gluten free muffins recipe healthy snack breakfast

fresh out of the oven gluten free and dairy free banana apricot and almond muffins healthy recipe

gluen and dairy free banana apricot and almond muffin recipe healthy cake

Inside the muffins are moist and oh-so-good! Keep them in an airtight container, and because of the fresh banana they should be eaten within a few days – although they certainly don’t last that long in our house.

bite taken out of banana apricot and almond muffins gluten and dairy free moist and light recipe

You can find out more about the Great Bloggers Bake Off 2015 by clicking here, and more about Tesco Real Food by clicking here.

A big thank you to Tesco for providing me with the ingredients for this bake. The opinions and recipe however are entirely my own.

Mummy Mishaps

Halloween Pumpkin Cupcakes

halloween spooky pumpkin face cupcakes decorated

Happy Halloween! This bake is another inspired by my baking calendar (as was my lemon & lavender cake back in the summer). Spiced pumpkin cake with ginger icing? Yes please!

baking calendar cake a month october halloween pumpkin cupcakes recipe inspiration

I altered the recipe a little, to include more pumpkin, no sultanas, and added some cream cheese to the icing. Finished with a glittered pumpkin fondant topper – scary and sweet all at the same time! A slight confession – hopefully you’ll forgive – as these cakes are made with oil rather butter, and mixed rather than creamed and folded, they’re actually more muffins than cupcakes. But they still taste as good!

Ingredients (makes approx. 15 medium muffins)

350g mashed pumpkin
125ml olive oil
150 light muscovado sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
300g plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
2 teaspoons nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg

Method

– In a large bowl, beat together the pumpkin, oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla
– Sieve in the dry ingredients, and mix until just combined
– Spoon into cupcake / muffin cases, filling to about 2/3
– Bake at 180 degrees for 15 – 20 minutes, until an inserted skewer comes out clean

pumpkin cupcakes easy recipe and method for autumn or halloween baking

Spiced cream cheese icing

50g butter
125g cream cheese
275g icing sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ginger
Pinch of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence

– Mix together the butter and cream cheese until smooth
– Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Don’t beat too much or the cream cheese will start to melt.
– Refrigerate for 15 minutes before using to top the cooled cakes. Keep the cakes in the fridge until they’re ready to be eaten

pumpkin cupcakes with spiced cream cheese frosting autumn recipe

The lovely My Cake Decorating Halloween special came with this great pumpkin plunger cutter, perfect for making scary-faced pumpkins every time!

orange fondant pumpkin shapes for halloween cupcakes

I used a little black + red edible glitter to fill in the eyes, nose and mouth for extra spooky effect.

painting fondant orange pumpkin faces with edible glitter for halloween baking Trick or treat! What do you think?

halloween pumpkin cupcakes spiced recipe using vegetable flesh cream cheese frosting halloween pumpkin cupcake flavoured and decorate spooky glitter face halloween pumpkin cupcake spooky face orange fondant and edible glitter

Blackcurrant Crumble Mini Muffins

mini blackcurrant muffins recipe fresh home grown british fruit crumble topping

At the moment I’m happy revelling in fresh produce from the garden. Not mine, I hasten to admit; we’re still living in a rented house, and I a vowed a couple of moves back not to spend ages weeding gardens and planting nice things just to move out before they’re ready. Rant over.

Last week I happily received some fresh blackcurrants from a work colleague (thanks Gill!), and after a few fresh fruit salad breakfasts, decided to use the rest in this recipe. In a lovely little twist, I then took some of the muffins over to my parents, and collected some of their home-grown courgettes. I’d like to say this is the start of a little saga of collecting fresh fruits/veg, baking them, and swapping for some more. But it’s not. It’s far too hot and sticky for that 😉

fresh blackcurrants british fruit harvest heart shaped bowl recipe ideas

I was really torn with what to do with these blackcurrants, so many choices! Jams, tarts, pies, macarons, the list is literally endless. In the end I settled on a combination of cake and a great British classic – crumble.

On looking for some crumbly inspiration, I was delighted to see one of my favourite blog reads, the Vagabond Baker, pop up in my google search results. So, this recipe is an adaptation from Rachel’s delightful apple recipe, with a few interjections from other recipes such as this one on BBC Good Food. I loved the oozy custard on Rachel’s recipe, but also wanted a super-crispy crumble topping, so ended up adding a little extra sugar for a fantastic caramelised crunch.

Ingredients (Makes approx. 24 mini muffins)

For the muffins
100g blackcurrants
50g butter
50g sugar – light brown is preferable
1 egg
50ml milk
150g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

For the blackcurrant jam sauce
25g blackcurrants
1 teaspoon sugar

For the crumble topping
25g butter
25g light brown sugar, plus 1 tablespoon extra to caramelise
25g plain flour
15g rolled oats

Method

– To make the muffin mixture, melt the butter, and beat in the rest of the ingredients, leaving the blackcurrants to last. Don’t overbeat – it’s better to have a few bits of flour still showing that to have a big blackcurrant mess!
– Using a mini muffin tin, either use paper liners, or grease generously (e.g. with cake release spray), and spoon in the mixture until the holes are around 2/3 full. Try and ensure a good distribution of blackcurrants – there should be a good few in each muffin.

blackcurrant mini muffin mixture in tin recipe and method

– Make the jam sauce by microwaving (or heating on the hob), the remaining blackcurrants with their sugar and around 2 teaspoons of water. It should only take a few minutes for the fruit to break down and turn into a bubbly jam. Any blackcurrants which don’t conform, stir and squish with the back of a spoon, so you have a runny jam.

– For the crumble, place all the ingredients in a large bowl, cubing or cutting the butter into small chunks. Using your fingers, rub the butter into the dry ingredients until it forms a dense crumb.

blackcurrant jam and crumble topping for mini muffins recipe

– Spoon a little of the jam mixture into the centre of each muffin

blackcurrant jam topping mini muffin recipe small cupcake tin

– And top with a good sprinkling of the crumble mixture, making sure all sides, and the jam, are completely covered.

crumble topping on mini blackcurrant muffins recipe oat

– Put the muffins into the oven, at 180 degrees, for around 12-15 minutes. This will entirely depend on your oven, but you want to take them out when the crumble is just starting to colour.

– Using the extra tablespoon of sugar, carefully sprinkle a pinch over the middle of each of the muffins. Again, using your fingers, drip a few drops of water on top of the sugar, so it starts to dissolve.
Return the muffins to the oven, and flick on the grill. Keep a close eye as when they start to caramelize it will happen very quickly, and there’s a fine line between crunchy caramel and burnt! It should take a couple of minutes, and the tops will start bubbling and become lovely and golden. Once they do, remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

caramelised crumble topping freshly baked on mini blackcurrant muffins fres

Once cool, carefully extract from the tin, using the point of a sharp knife to lift them out.

freshly baked mini blackcurrant muffins with caramelised oaty crumble topping

They are best enjoyed straight away, whilst they will keep in an airtight container, the caramelized crumble will gradually lose its crispiness. If this does happen, you can easily pop them back under the grill for a couple of minutes to crisp back up.

Needless to say they didn’t last very long in our house! I am completely in love with these little bites, but can’t decide what I like more, the sticky, fruity inside, or the caramel, crunchy topping…?

crunchy crumble topping and sticky fruit inside to blackcurrant mini muffins

mini blackcurrant muffins with caramelised brown sugar crumble topping recipe

Sticky Chocolate, Caramel and Fudge Chunk Muffins

I’m the first to admit that summer makes me more than a little lazy. Kitchen time has definitely lessened in the past couple of months; who wants to be slaving over a hot stove when it’s already sticky and warm out*.
(*I know it’s not that warm in the UK. But I need some excuse for my laziness!)

These muffins were made a couple of months back, and my poor brain struggles to remember why. I have a feeling that Rob was off road-tripping with the band several nights in a row, and in my boredom out of sheer niceness I made these the first evening, so he’d have something nice to take away the next day.

The observant among you may recognise the ingredients for these – yes – they currently feature as my blog header 🙂
Why oh why would you buy packets of pre-cubed chocolate and fudge chunks, at twice or even more of the price of a big block, when you could let loose and chop up your own. (If you were so inclined you could also make your own fudge, but that’s a little more effort than I’m prepared to put in…). It also means there’s plenty of opportunity for taste testing and quality control…

I chose to make muffins rather than cupcakes, simply because they would be more dense and suited to the chunky flavours and textures.

I threw some very generous handfuls of fudge and chocolate into the muffin mix, and they baked to perfection, looking and smelling like absolute heaven!

Inside was a gorgeous gooey fudge-y chocolate mess. They set a little as the muffins cool, just enough to have sweet stickiness with every bite.

Did they need frosting? No, not at all. Did I want an excuse to add more chocolate at gooey-ness? Yes, yes I did.

The icing recipe comes from the rather delightful Primrose Bakery. If you’ve not heard of them before, they are a London-based cupcakery, who’ve grown immensely in the last few years and now supply shops such as Selfridges and Fortnum and Mason, and also extended their product range to include larger layer and celebration cakes.

Although I’ve yet to visit either of their shops, I bought and can heartily recommend iPhone app.

With super-cute pictures, and simple, easy-to follow instructions, it is a great source of inspiration, and also serves as a good reminder for the more basic recipes you may forget the contents of.

This is where I discovered heavenly caramel buttercream, it’s one of the best icings I’ve ever tasted and rather fun to make as well (I love it bubbling up in the pan!)

Ingredients

90g butter
135ml milk
330g light brown sugar
360g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

Melt the butter, milk and brown sugar in a saucepan, and bring to the boil, stirring continuously. Allow to boil for one minute, keep stirring as it will bubble up! (See photo below)

Allow to cool for 5 – 10 minutes, before beating in the icing sugar and vanilla essence (at this stage I substituted 30g icing sugar for 30g cocoa)

Leave to cool until it reaches the consistency you want. If you want to pour it, then it’s pretty much ready straight away. If you want to pipe it, as I did, it’ll need a good 30 – 60 minutes in the fridge first. (If you’re in a hurry add a little extra icing sugar to help thicken it up).
If it over-hardens, you can easily stir it up again, or pop over a low heat for a few seconds at a time.

Left – boiling up; Right – runny and ready to go!

I cooled my icing down to a pipeable consistency, before adorning the cakes with big swirls and more fudge chunks.

Wickedly good – I’m quite glad Rob took them away with him before they all had a chance to add themselves to my waistline!

HK Breakfast Cakes

Hello from Hong Kong!

More to follow later – but just a quick snapshot from my week at the funky W Hong Kong.

Aside from the continual disco music (really – it even plays in the bathrooms!), amazingly helpful staff and brilliant harbour views, I had to share BREAKFAST with you.

Served in The Kitchen every morning it is like no hotel breakfast I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen a fair few on my travels). An amazing array of cereals, fruits, yoghurts, breads, meats, cheeses, noodles, fresh omelettes, juices, sweets (gummy bears for breakfast…?), pastries and of course cakes!

Every  morning there was an amazing selection of freshly baked muffins – in my 3 days here are just some of the different types served up:


And as if that wasn’t enough cake to start the day, how about some doughnuts…?

In the end I don’t actually think I had any cake for breakfast all week – pre-9am sugar rush is not a great setup for the day. Don’t know if breakfast cakes have quite the same appeal as afternoon tea?

That’s all for today – and from this time zone! Flying back late tonight, and jet-lag permitting, will upload some more Asian yumminess tomorrow 🙂

Jubil-icious – Red, White, and Brilliantly British!

What a fantastic weekend it’s been – lots of celebrating the Queen’s amazing diamond jubilee. Of course I couldn’t let it go past without occasion, so this afternoon we had a barbecue in our garden for a few of our friends.

My baking of course had to be jubilee themed – and my fab cake decorating magazine had published a great special edition for the occasion, with some great free gifts including a crown cookie cutter, edible jewels and of course cute little flags!

To be truly British I wanted my biscuits to be either red, white or blue – one is nearly impossible, the other had the potential to look like some truly inedible alien food, so I happily settled on some red velvet biscuits. There are plenty of recipes out there, and mine was adapted from this one – omitting the chocolate chips and sour cream so I’d have a nice firm dough to roll out.

A word of warning – this recipe makes a LOT of biscuits – I was cutting and baking for well over an hour!

Next step was to ice them all a crisp white. I stuck with my tried and rested method of infill icing. Pipe a stiff line carefully around the edges, then water down the icing and ‘flood’ the middle. It gives a perfect smooth finish and no drips of icing running down the side of your biscuits.

For the decoration I just had one colour left! Royal blue is sadly not very easy to make from basic food colours, and I’d not had the foresight to get some in specially. Nonetheless, I mixed a few colours to get a rich blue with a hint of silver shimmer, and set to work with a paintbrush, making spots, swirls and of course sixty’s all over the biscuits.For a final touch I also dusted the edges with some red edible glitter, to bring out the colour of the velvet recipe.

It’s at this point that I feel I should admit that I think I have some form of baking OCD. Do you have any idea how long it took to ice and decorate all these biscuits? No, neither do I, I completely lost track! A normal person would have probably stopped halfway through, happy with a decent sized batch of biscuits. Not I….

Our cats, Chilli and Pepper, came for a visit at this point. They thought all their Christmas’s had come at once, all these biscuits laid out on a red carpet!

The jewel decorations weren’t quite as amazing as I’d hoped – they are basically just boiled sweets, and didn’t really sparkle or add much to the biscuits. I coated them in some silver lustre for a bit of extra shimmer, but have to say I don’t think I’ll be using these again.

Nevertheless, I was really happy with all the biscuits. The decorating really paid off, they looked (and tasted), great!

Next stop – I wanted CAKE! Again, red was easier to get into the base, but this time I went for strawberries and white chocolate. I used both some tinned strawberries (drained and mashed a little), for colour and flavour, and some chopped dried strawberries for a nice chunky texture and sweet chew to the cake. Chocolate needs no explanation! It’s much cheaper buying in a bar and breaking into chunks (bashing with a rolling pin) is oddly therapeutic 😉 If I’d had the time (and maybe the money) to buy endless ingredients, blueberries would have been nice to complete the theme. Maybe next time. Do you think she’ll make it to 70 years…?

I added the strawberries and chocolate to a basic muffin mix, and decided to stick with the heart shape for the cakes as well. A special occasion calls for something special!

The butter icing is difficult to get bright white unless you use pure vegetable fat (like Trex), which I hate the taste of, yuk, or you can buy some tippex-looking colouring from Wilton – this may be next on my shopping list… For today I just beat my butter to high heaven – this makes it super light in both taste and colour, and also took on a tip I’d found online of adding a few pin pricks of purple food colouring, to get that ‘ultra-violet’ kind of whiteness.

The decorations were red and blue to stick with the theme – a mix of red rolled fondant, piped blue butter cream, and various matching red and blue sprinkles.

I tried for about half an hour to decide on one design, but there were so many things I wanted to use and techniques to try, that I decided to go for the whole lot! The results were great – 14 themed but individual cakes, all brilliantly British colours!

Baking done, we were all set to barbecue! The brilliant British tradition that is bank holiday weather meant that I spent the whole morning looking gloomily out the window at the rain, but about half an hour before our guests arrived the clouds parted and we rushed outside to set up the garden – including decorations in the form of homemade union jack bunting:

A couple of good hours of beer, burgers, cider, crisps, salad and snacks later, and we were very quickly rained off by some more of the wet stuff. A perfect opportunity to dash in for tea and cake!

Happy Jubilee weekend!